Better Me

6 Common Summertime Rashes in Kids

Protecting your child’s skin is a year-round concern, especially in the summertime. With warmer weather, your child will spend more time outdoors playing, swimming and exploring. 

While summertime is a nice change from the cold winter months spent indoors, it can increase your child’s exposure to things like sunlight, insects, poisonous plants and itchy and painful rashes

“Rashes and itchy skin patches are one of the most common reasons parents bring in their kids for medical visits during the summer months,” said Alice Antonescu, MD, a pediatrician with Banner Health. “Most you can treat or monitor at home, but some may indicate a more serious problem that your child’s health care provider should see.”

Below are six of the most common summer skin rashes in children and tips on how you can identify and soothe each one.

1. Heat rash

Heat rash, also known as prickly heat, is a red, bumpy and itchy rash that often appears in areas of the body where sweat collects, such as the armpits, back, chest, behind knees and inside the creases of the elbows. 

“It is common in children, especially babies, when the pores of the sweat glands become clogged – often when they get overheated,” Dr. Antonescu said. 

What parents can do

Treat heat rashes with cool compresses or a 10-minute cool bath, then allow the skin to air dry. 

To help prevent heat rash, dress your child in lightweight, breathable clothing like cotton. Cotton clothes keep the skin cool and dry. Avoid heavy clothing or bundling your child.

[For additional treatment and prevention tips, check out “Tips to Prevent Heat Rash in Babies and Children.”]

2. Poisonous plant rashes

Many people, adults and children included, develop an itchy rash when they touch or brush up against poison ivy, poison oak or poison sumac.  

“The rash is due to a plant oil called urushiol that causes an itchy, blistery allergic reaction when the oil from one of these poisonous plants touches the skin,” Dr. Antonescu said.

What parents can do

If your child is exposed to one of these plants, rinse the skin with lukewarm, soapy water, wash their clothes and don’t try to pop or open the blisters. Apply a cool compress and apply calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream. You can also give Benadryl if needed.

Talk to your child’s health care provider if the rash is severe and/or isn’t going away, if the rash is on their face or groin area, or if you notice signs of an infection such as fever and swelling.

Before going camping, hiking or in an area with lots of bushes and low-lying plants, teach your child how to identify the leaves and prevent an itchy encounter before it happens. 

3. Swimmer’s itch

When it heats up, your family will be eager to take a dip in the lake, ocean or other natural bodies of water. However, don’t come away with an itchy rash. 

Swimmer’s itch, also called clam digger’s itch, is caused by a parasite found in many lakes and other warm bodies of water.

“You get it when parasites in the water burrow into your skin,” Dr. Antonescu said. “They will cause small, itchy red spots to appear within a couple of hours after swimming.”

What parents can do

You can apply hydrocortisone cream and ice packs to the affected area. For severe itching, Benadryl can be used. Try to help your child avoid scratching themselves.

To prevent swimmer’s itch, stay out of infested water. When water is infested, you may see a sign that tells you to stay out of the water or hear about someone who recently developed a rash after being in the water. 

You can also briskly rub your child’s skin with a towel after getting out of the water. Parasites tend to burrow into the skin once the water begins evaporating, not while your child is in the water.

4. Impetigo

“Impetigo is a very common bacterial skin infection in young children that peaks in the warm weather months,” Dr. Antonescu said. “The bacteria can spread easily through close contact with someone who is infected.”

It usually shows up as a crusty sore that is honey-like in color. 

What parents can do

If you suspect your child has impetigo, take them to their health care provider to get a diagnosis and start treatment as this infection is very contagious. Often antibiotic creams or antibiotic tablets can help reduce the length of the illness and lower the risk of spreading it to others.

To prevent the spread of infection, avoid going to camp, school, nursery, preschool or playgroups until the sores are dried and healed. Avoid sharing blankets or clothes, or having close contact with infected people.

5. Hand, foot and mouth disease

Unless you have young children, you’ve probably never heard of the viral illness hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD). It is common in warmer months and can spread in childcare centers, preschools and summer camps. 

“It is caused by the enterovirus coxsackie, and the illness starts with a sore throat, fever, congestion and a rash with tiny blisters that may appear around the mouth, on fingers and palms of hands, on soles of feet and the buttocks,” Dr. Antonescu said.

What parents can do

Treatment for HFMD is symptom relief, so ensure your child is comfortable and drinking plenty of water and fluids. Symptoms usually go away within a week.

Contact their health care provider for guidance if you are concerned about your child’s rash, fever or hydration.

6. Ringworm

Ringworm is common in tropical areas and during hot, humid summers. Despite its name, ringworm infection is not caused by an actual worm. Instead, it is caused by a fungus on the skin, hair and under the nails called dermatophytes. Different dermatophytes affect different parts of the body, such as the feet (athlete’s foot), groin area (jock itch) and scalp (tinea capitis).

“It causes a circular (ring-shaped), itchy rash with raised borders,” Dr. Antonescu said. 

What parents can do

Contact your child’s health care provider if you suspect they have ringworm or another fungal infection. They may prescribe your child an antifungal cream or medication. 

Avoid sharing personal items (clothing, towels), wash hands often and keep areas clean to avoid spreading the infection. 


Summer is full of outdoor adventures and fun for you and your family. Unfortunately, rashes are common this time of year, but don’t let it spoil your fun. Contact your child’s health care provider if you have questions or concerns.

For additional summer safety tips to keep your kids happy and healthy, check out these other blogs:

Children's Health Parenting